NEWS
08/04/2011 07:17 EDT | Updated 10/04/2011 05:12 EDT

Canada's Findlay feeling nervous about Olympic triathlon test race

Paula Findlay feels healthy, but unprepared for her Olympic triathlon test event Saturday in London.

A tearful Findlay pulled out of a World Cup race in her hometown of Edmonton on July 10 due to a hip strain.

One of the world's top female triathletes says she's now pain free, but avoided running until this week to make ensure she had healed.

The women step to the start line for the 1.5-kilometre swim, 40-kilometre bike and 10k run on Saturday, followed by the men's elite race Sunday.

Findlay, 22, will be joined by Victoria's Kirsten Sweetland and Montreal's Kathy Tremblay in the women's elite field. Former Olympic champion Simon Whitfield of Victoria and Kyle Jones of Oakville, Ont., are the Canadians in the men's field.

The race course follows the same route for the triathlon at the 2012 Olympic Games. Findlay won the world championship series race on the flat, fast Hyde Park course a year ago. Her expectations are lower this time because she's had to back off of training.

"I hate making excuses and I have been training hard for three weeks at altitude with my swim and my bike," Findlay said on a conference call Thursday from London. "I'm still fit. I just haven't run. I don't know how it's going to go. It's a big question mark."

The year's world champions are determined by results over an eight-race series. Findlay was ranked No. 1 earlier this season thanks to three straight wins to open the season in Sydney, Australia, Madrid, Spain and Kitzbuehel, Austria.

Her plan was always to skip the fourth world championship series race in Hamburg, Germany, in July to race at home in Edmonton and then prepare for the Olympic test event in London. Barbara Riveros Diaz of Chile moved past Findlay into top spot in the rankings with a fifth-place finish in Hamburg.

The hip injury put a damper on the momentum Findlay has built since last year, when she won both in Kitzbuehel and London.

Findlay quickly established herself as a gold-medal contender for London, but she must stay healthy to have a shot at the top of the podium.

"It's an advantage to see the course a year out from the Olympics and that's why I really want to race on Saturday, despite not being completely ready for it," she said.

She's not comfortable with the label as of "Olympic gold-medal favourite".

"It is a lot of pressure and I don't like thinking about it or reading about it," Findlay admitted. "Last year, at this time before the London race, I wasn't even thinking I could make the Olympic team and now I'm being considered a medal hopeful."

Because of her previous successes, Findlay can secure her spot on Canada's Olympic team with a top-eight result Saturday.

Without a top-eight finish in a previous world championship series event, the road to London is longer for the rest of the Canadians. They can help their case for selection to the team with top results in the test race.

The Canadian team arrived in London on Wednesday from almost three weeks of altitude training in Les Angles, France. Jones, 26, was a career-best 12th in Hamburg after finishing fourth against a weaker field in Edmonton.

Whitfield, 36, was sixth in Edmonton and hasn't finished on a World Cup podium in two years. Unlike Findlay, the gold medallist in 2000 and silver medallist in 2008 craves attention and external pressure to fuel his competitive drive.

"I don't know if there's enough pressure right now," Whitfield said. "If someone could please write I'm a gold-medal contender that would be great because that pressure certainly doesn't feel like it's there.

"I quite enjoyed the experience the pressure of 2004 and 2008 and learned a lot from both experiences. I like that kind of pressure. Now that expectation isn't on me, so I have to put it on myself and drive myself in different way."

Riveros Diaz, New Zealand's Andrea Hewitt and Australians Emma Moffatt and Emma Snowsill will be Findlay's chief rivals Saturday. Javier Gomez of Spain and the Brownlee brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee of Britain are among the favourites in the men's field.